Raindrops

She ran quickly as the rain started to fall from the sky. There she stopped under the overhanging roof of an obscure shop and tried to shake off most of the raindrops caught in her yellow summer umbrella. It was supposed to be a sunny day. There was no sign of the rain that morning and she was caught horribly off guard.

The seventeen-year-old chuunin girl tucked away stray strands of her dark hair behind her ears. Fortunately she managed to stay dry through her hurried trek.

Hyuuga Hinata sighed as she looked up in the raining sky. It was steady and looked like it was going to fall for a long time. Two thirty her watch said.

It was also fortunate that she had two more hours to kill before the engagement party at the Hyuuga family compound. She would surely be scolded if she came home late and soaking wet.

The rain fell harder. It would probably be best to stay out of its way and wait for it to finish.

Hinata's pearl-gray eyes stared at the sheets of rain, catching each individual raindrop with her gaze. They shimmered, like diamonds, before falling helplessly to the ground. Her advanced bloodline limit, Byakuugan, granted her that skill.

Her long slender fingers clutched the handle of her umbrella tightly as she remembered why she was walking alone on the city streets.

The engagement party, of course, was very much on her mind.

How could it not?

It is hers.

Her eyes hardened as she recalled the past conversation with her father the week before.

"It has been agreed upon, even before you were born. Your bethroal to the heir of the greatest family of the Wind country is something to be proud of, daughter. Your future is secured and so is the family's." Hiashi said as he stared at his eldest daughter, his heiress. Her fingers had tightened together but her face was controlled, almost like a mask.

"W-Why didn't I know?" she murmured.

"It is none of your concern. The family has decided that it is time for you to marry." He said sternly, as if displeased that she asked.

"B-But what if-"I didn't love him?

"Hinata, daughter," Hiashi's voice softened as he reached out to touch her shoulder awkwardly "This is for the family's good. This will secure our future."

I am a sacrificial lamb? "B-But F-Father…"

"Do not question me, daughter. Arranged marriages are more comfortable than love marriages," he said quietly "Your engagement party will be held soon."

Hinata sighed as she wrung the edges of her sleeveless hooded jacket. It was a present from Haruno Sakura who decided she needed to wear something else for Konoha's summers were very hot.

But I want to marry for love.

The engagement will end everything, even before it started.

She understood what her father was trying to say. The family needed her more than ever now. Although she wasn't at the right age yet, she knew how to manage the system and would sometimes attend the elder's meetings at her father's request. Everything was resting on her hands.

And she would whole-heartedly accept it…

Even if it meant letting go of all her hopes and dreams.

She'd told her friends and teachers. They weren't exactly happy for her but they congratulated her all the same. Most of them would surely show up at the party today.

But what about him… a small voice in her ear whispered.

Hinata sighed yet again. She was torn between wanting to see him and not seeing him. To see him meant want of escape, of hurting more. But not seeing him would condemn her to a lifetime of misery and could-haves and would-haves.

She loved him so much she couldn't remember a moment when she didn't.

Ever since she was a girl until now she'd loved him secretly. She treasured the few moments he spent with her, his smiles, his laughter. Secretly she would rejoice with him on his victories and cry for him when his sadness overcomes him. He isn't aware of how much she knew him, probably because he hadn't really noticed her.

She was the weird girl who couldn't speak straight and stares at him.

But she loved him all the same, and more.

Hinata would give up anything in the world just to be with him.

They were so similar to each other although he didn't notice. Loneliness, pain, and being shunned away were common denominators of their childhoods. Although she was the child of the greatest family in the Village she suffered like him. They were like the two sides of a coin.

Because of him she gained enough courage to stand up against her enemies and for herself…

But it was not enough to confess to him how much she loved him

She would always be in the background, waiting quietly for him to turn around and see her.

Hinata had always waited very patiently.

But now she couldn't wait any more… She was going to be another man's wife and she would lose all chances to tell him.

It broke her heart. Nobody knew how many secret tears she'd shed at night as she counted down the days to her engagement.

Whether he will come or not, she knew.

And she will cry in her heart.

She couldn't have him…

Someday he would become some lucky woman's husband. She wished for his happiness whole-heartedly but she couldn't help but weep for her own loss. Gentle and kindhearted as Hinata was, she was also a human who hurts.

This hurt more than the day Neji broke most of her bones in that chuunin exam match, than the afternoon her father broke her spirit through harsh words, and the day she admitted to the world that she was weak.

Hinata's thoughts were interrupted when she heard quick footsteps running towards her direction. She turned ever so slightly and her eyes widened in surprise.

It was him. Uzumaki Naruto-kun…

His unruly blond hair glistened with raindrops, his shirt was wet at the shoulders, and he looked gorgeous. Somehow he didn't notice her there as he looked up pensively at the rain.

She allowed herself to absorb this rare expression, even for just a moment she wished to imagine that it was her in his mind…

His brows were furrowed and his eyes were a deeper cerulean blue. Naruto had grown taller than they had expected and he towered over them all. He was more handsome than the other girls would like to admit but she knew how handsome he will be as soon as he grew up.

"Hinata-chan, is that you?" Naruto said. She blushed pink as she realized that he had caught her staring.

"Y-Yes, it's me," she had gotten over that speech impediment but it always comes back whenever she tried to talk to him.

"Ah, I thought so." He nodded at her, flashing a small smile. She looked away, aware of her heated cheeks.

There was her love, so near that her fingertips can almost reach out to touch his hair and cheeks but so far from her. It was a hurtful thought and she sought solace in the sky, looking up to keep her tears in her eyes.

It was the last two hours of her girlhood. And she wished to cherish it.

They stood together underneath that small roof, close enough to touch but they keep away. He stares at the passing cars, at the empty benches. She stares at the rain as it falls from the gray sky. Silence lay between them; neither could find the right words to say.

She was content to stand by him, to steal glances at him.

He didn't notice as he was too wrapped up on his own thoughts.

Sometimes a sigh would escape her lips. Memories, so clear and beautiful, like crystal roses she would keep in her secret heart. They would sustain her through the long and lonely nights ahead of her.

"Hinata-chan?" it was him who broke the silence.

"Y-Yes?" she answered softly.

He paused as if something held him back before going on in a tight voice, "Today is your engagement, isn't it?"

"Yes." She replied, looking down at her hands. Why did he have to remind her?

"Tell me about your fiancée. Is he a good man, does he eat a lot, and will he take care of you?" said Naruto, his blue eyes fathomlessly deep. She glanced at him but this time her gaze didn't slip away.

"I-I don't know…" Hinata said, ashamed of her flimsy answer.

"He must take care of you… Love you even," he said in a hollow voice. He held her gaze, probing the depths of her pearl-gray eyes. Her eyes didn't hide, betray, or hurt but they were merely innocent and kind. Sometimes he thought that he could see the purity of her soul and her truths when he looked hard enough.

"W-Why are you asking me these?" she asked instead. She didn't know what to answer because she hasn't met her fiancée.

Naruto created laughter rout of nothing. "I'm just curious… and concerned as a friend should be."

Friend… the word stabbed her heart.

"The raindrops are pretty, aren't they?" she said, trying to draw their conversation away.

"Yes, pretty." He agreed slowly.

"They look like diamonds, do they not?" she continued, forcing cheerfulness in her voice. And she did her best to push away her taciturnity.

He merely nodded, absorbed in watching the raindrops. She dropped the attempt and watched too.

It seemed like a short eternity had passed before he spoke up.

"Raindrops look like tears," he said matter-of-factly.

"Tears?" she echoed.

Naruto nodded. "The sky is crying, it's sad, but its tears are pretty. Like diamonds."

She felt like her heart was breaking. His statement was something she would've said. It seemed to her that Naruto can see the world as she did. They could share the same love, the same rainy sky.

But she couldn't have it.

What she wanted most.

"Hinata-chan, I know of a man who loves a woman. They were very much like each other and it was as if Fate had made them for each other. But they couldn't be… you see, the woman was going to be someone else's wife and he was going to be the best ninja. There wasn't anything they could do.

"He would give up everything in the world to be there for her, to save her from her future husband, and to wipe away her tears. He loves her so much… that he could let her go."

"D-Does she know of his feelings?" she managed to say after fighting the tightening of her throat.

"Unfortunately, no," Naruto said quietly.

"And does he know of hers?" asked Hinata softly.

"Yes, very much… that is why he loved her so. He couldn't tell her his feelings because then perhaps she would stop loving him… and she could start loving her husband…" he replied.

"But doesn't he know that she would not go away? That she wanted to be saved?"

"Perhaps he doesn't."

And their words drift back to silence. The rain falls slowly and steadily, occasionally spraying them.

The raindrops in her hair remind Naruto of stars. They shine in its raven darkness before falling as the stars do. Her face contained a melancholic expression that added to its beauty. It was a bittersweet sort of beauty, one that summons sadness and admiration for the serenity and strength of will of its wearer.

Hinata felt his gaze and smiled towards his direction. She smiled at him. It was the most heartbreaking smile he'd ever seen.

She glanced at her watch. Four fifteen. Then her eyes looked up at the sky.

The rain wasn't as strong as before. It had slowed to a drizzled, one that was safe to walk through. In fifteen minutes she would be late. It was best to get going.

"Naruto-kun, do I know this man that you spoke of?" she asked, feeling slightly foolish. Of course she knew.

He shook his head. She needn't know.

"Maybe they are better this way. It would probably hurt less." She shrugged.

He looked at her thoughtfully as she opened her umbrella. It was a bright yellow, the same color of radiant sunshine. How appropriate for her name.

"I have to leave, Naruto-kun. I have to prepare for the engagement." Hinata says as she looks at him with a smile. A smile to hide her doubts, fears, and hurts but she placed all of her love in it. "Will you come?"

"Maybe not." And here he looked up to the sky.

"Oh." She looked at her umbrella, aware of her hastening heartbeats and hot throat.

The dark-haired girl was standing very closely to the rain while she stared at him.

Naruto approached her and pulled her hood up. His fingers grazed for a moment on her dark hair, smelled their fragrance, and became aware of its silky softness. He stepped away and smiled cheerfully.

"I just thought you might get wet on the way." He said with a nonchalant tone.

She bowed deeply before stepping out into the rain. Since her engagement would put some distance on them, she'd rather be the one to do so. It would probably make her ache less or more, whichever.

"Arigatou," Hinata said softly. How her heart longed to say more! But she bit her lip to keep it in. It wasn't going to change anything.

"No problem," he told her with a smile.

"See you, Naruto-kun. Arigatou again… and take care," she said as she turned away from him. Raindrops fell with a steady rhythm on her umbrella, mimicking her heartbeats. Her eyes misted over and before she could walk away a few more steps, she looked back.

The rain was like a curtain, blurring her vision of him.

He stood proudly, a lone figure, underneath the overhanging roof of an obscure restaurant. His smile was cheerful and it broke her heart.

She had to shout against the wind. "She loves him… very much! And she wouldn't be in the way if his ambition dictates dedication! He would always be in her heart!"

Her own tears, like the slow raindrops of the summer rain, slid down her cheeks. She couldn't see him clearly anymore and wasn't sure if that was the rain on his cheeks or if it was tears like her own.

"I love you too…" Naruto whispered as he waved back at her, trying to smile although he was crying too. He was glad and hurt and angry at himself for being so in love with a woman he cannot have although she gave returned his feelings.

But like the man in the story he told, he loved her so much he can let her go.

And she walked away slowly from him, her first and only love, and towards the rain.

She was crying, for him, for her, and for that rainy afternoon when raindrops shimmered like diamonds.

Raindrops

052505; 3:56pm

A/N: I started this last night and should've been posted then if not for my annoying brother. Anyway, it's been long since I wrote a NaruHina and it's angst at that so… please forgive me. I was inspired by the rain out the window, the topic of my friends, and the song 'First Love' by Utada Hikaru. And so here it is.

Dedications go to the Himitsu Desu! People who gave me two gifts four days in advance for my birthday, especially to Ate Jenn. Lazy-kun, our fic is on the works. Ate Syao, I hope this helps restore your love for NaruHina! Go HD!

Kisses from Aya-chan